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The Nation's Report Card: U.S. History 2006

May 2007

Authors:  Jihyun Lee and Andrew R. Weiss

Download sections of the report (or the complete report) in a PDF file for viewing and printing.


Cover image of the Nation's Report Card: U.S. History 2006 report

Executive Summary

The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) U.S. history assessment evaluates students’ understanding of the development of America’s democratic institutions and ideals. Students demonstrated their knowledge of democracy, culture, technological and economic change, and America’s changing world role. A nationally representative sample of 29,000 students at grades 4, 8, and 12 was assessed in 2006. This report compares 2006 student performance to similar assessments conducted in 1994 and 2001.

America’s twelfth-, eighth-, and especially fourth-graders know more U.S. history now than in the past according to the 2006 NAEP assessment.

The performance of twelfth-graders, tomorrow’s adult citizens, improved over the last dozen years with increases distributed across the entire range of performance. A higher percentage of twelfth-graders performed at or above the Basic level in 2006 than in both previous assessment years. Scores increased over the past five years in all four themes measured by the assessment.

Eighth-graders’ knowledge of U.S. history has also improved since 1994. Eighth-grade scores were higher at all levels of performance. The percentage of eighth-graders at or above Proficient increased from 14 percent in 1994 to 17 percent in 2006.

 What students know about U.S. history

 Fourth-graders
 66% understood the symbolism of the Statue of Liberty
 35% explained how two inventions changed life in the U.S.
 24% explained why people settled on the western frontier
 Eighth-graders
 64% identified an impact of the cotton gin
 43% explained goals of the Martin Luther King, Jr., march
 1% explained how the fall of the Berlin Wall affected foreign policy
 Twelfth-graders
 67% identified important Great Society idea
 36% identified immigration pattern and explained its causes
 14% explained a reason for involvement in the Korean War

Improvements in fourth-grade performance, with higher average scores in 2006 than in 1994, were evident for a number of student groups. The greatest improvement was found for the lowest-performing fourth-graders who gained 19 points. Seventy percent of fourth-graders performed at or above Basic compared to 64 percent in 1994.

As shown in the chart below, White, Black, and Hispanic students at all three grades and Asian/Pacific Islander students at grade 12 showed improvements when compared to 1994. American Indian/Alaska Native students did not improve.

Graphic showing score changes in the NAEP 1994, 2001, and 2006 U.S. History assessments. Scores compare students performance 1994 and 2001 to 2006, respectively across grades 4, 8 and 12. In grade 4, Overall students were up in 1994, up in 2001, Whites were up in 1999, up in 2001, Blacks were up in 1994, no change in 2001, Hispanics were up in 1994, up in 2001, Asian/Pacific Islander no change in 1994, no change in 2001, American Indian did not meet the reporting standards in 1994 or 2001; In grade 8, Overall students were up in 1994, up in 2001, Whites were up in 1999, up in 2001, Blacks were up in 1994, no change in 2001, Hispanics were up in 1994, up in 2001, Asian/Pacific Islander no change in 1994, no change in 2001, American Indian no change in 1994, no change in 2001; In grade 12, Overall students were up in 1994, up in 2001, Whites were up in 1999, up in 2001, Blacks were up in 1994, no change in 2001, Hispanics were up in 1994, no change in 2001, Asian/Pacific Islander up in 1994, no change in 2001, American Indian no change in 1994, no change in 2001. Graphic also shows gaps scores for White minus Black and White minus Hispanic students for all three grades. The only score gap noted was for grade 4 in 1994, both White minus Black and White minus Hispanic had a gap decrease all other comparisons showed no significant change in the score gap compared to 2006.

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Download sections of the report (or the complete report) in a PDF file for viewing and printing:

NCES 2007-474 Ordering information

Suggested Citation
Lee, J., and Weiss, A. (2007).The Nation’s Report Card: U.S. History 2006 (NCES 2007–474). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office.

For more information, see the results of the 2006 U.S. History assessment on the Nation's Report Card website.

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Last updated 07 May 2007 (RH)

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